18 A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
And the fact even stands that the Sphinx is not caived out wholly of rock. The sculptors found the size of the living rock insufficient to carry out the design which had been given them, and so they were forced to build up part of the rounded back and the fifty-feet-long forepaws with specially baked bricks and hewn stones in order to complete their tremendous task. This added casing has yielded in parts to the attacks of men and years, so that a few bricks have become dislodged and some stones have disappeared.
Then came Colonel Howard Vyse, a hundred years ago, homeward-bound from army service in India. At Suez he had to leave his ship and take to the post-coach, which was maintained by the old East India Company to bring its officers to Cairo and then to the Mediterranean for further embarkation. He dallied awhile in Cairo, attracted by the pyramids and Sphinx, to which he made several visits. Hearing of the old legends and determined to test them, he procured long iron boring-rods, mounted with chisels at the ends, and had the Sphinx's shoulder pierced through to ascertain whether or not it was hollow, but with disappointing result. He penetrated twenty-seven feet into solid rock, and the holes left by his efforts still scar it. But, unfortunately, in Vyse's time nothing but the face and head were visible, the body being entombed under an enormous mass of sand. So his work left three-quarters of the statue untouched, while never even approaching its base.
The night crept surreptitiously on, quiet and silent as a panther, save for the ghastly, semi-human winnings of some desert jackals which marked the passage of the hours. We sat there, the Sphinx and I, under the clear African starlight, strengthening the invisible tie which had brought us together, turning acquaintance into friendship, and perhaps gaining some fresh understanding of each other.
When I first came to him, several years ago, he had looked away in calm disdain. To this giant I was then but one more pigmy mortal, one more hurrying creature peregrinating on two legs and compounded of vain self-sufficiency, fickle desires and foolish thoughts. To me he had seemed to be a gloomy emblem of that Truth which man would never find, a gigantic idol dedicated to the Unknown before whom all prayers fell,